A press conference on hamletting, food blockade and other forms of human rights violations in Compostela Valley, perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, was held yesterday, Aug. 10 at UCCP Haran.
Victims and different human rights groups, namely, the Exodus for Justice and Peace, PASAKA-SMR (Confederation of Lumad Organization in Southern Mindanao Region), Kilusang Mambubukid ng Pilipinas – Southern Mindanao Region and KARAPATAN – Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) participated in the said conference.
Various forms of injustices caused by the civil war between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the New People’s Army were brought to the table. The Lumad people are the primary victims of militarization, particularly the farmers.
According to a KARAPATAN-SMR statement, the military (AFP) captures innocent civilians, accuses them of being a member of the NPA, drops aerial bombs, and cuts off their normal food supply.
Pablo Escuadro, from Maragusan, said that his son, Romie Escuadro, a farmer, was captured by the military last Sunday. According to Joselito Sadya, from New Bataan, two civilians who were simply carrying baskets of nuts were forced to guide the soldiers towards the location of the NPA.
“Usa sa mga kabuang sa mga sundalo (AFP), pag abot sa among baryo, naa’y giputol didto na ginabawal na gamot, kanang gikan sa sagbot na gipapas-an sa duha ka sibilyan na gipasahinglan na mao daw ang ilang trabaho. Aron di sila (AFP) madutlan, gipapirma nga wala sila (ang mga sibilyan) gikulata pero ang lagom diri sa ilang kilid, klaro kayo,” Sadya added.
[“One of the militaries’ (AFP) dirty works is that when they go to our area, they let the civilians do the work of getting plants to produce illegal drugs. In the end, the civilians are the ones accused of initiating and doing the work. For the AFP to not suffer any consequences, they let the civilians sign a paper stating that they weren’t forced and beaten up but the dark bruises on their bodies show otherwise,” Sadya added.]
He also said that they hold off the normal distribution of rice. They are only given 25 kilograms of rice every day which is barely enough as compared to the normal consumption of eight sacks of rice already good for 200 families per day.
Julito Bayon, from Barangay Pichon, Caraga, described how peaceful their land was until the militarization came. For 20 years already, their chieftain would control the selling of the products for him to monopolize. Also, seven to 13 aerial bombs were dropped just recently, causing a few injuries.
“Dili namo gusto na ang hustisya, para lang sa isa ka tao. Ang gusto namo, pantay na hustisya,” Bayon stated.
[“We don’t want justice for one individual only. What we want is an equal justice,” Bayon stated.”]
Lito Lao, vice chairman of the KMP-SMR, emphasized that the farmers were and are still suffering in the same situation. They are asking for the attention of President Rodrigo Duterte to listen, once again, to the pleas of the farmers and to not easily believe in the military, who, they believe, initiated the violation of the president’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire.
“Ang mga mag-uuma, naipit sa panagbangi sa duha ka grupong armado. Kinahanglan masugdan na ang pagsturya alang sa pakighinabi sa kalinaw sa nasod sa Pilipinas,” Lao urged.
[“The farmers are suffering because of the conflict between the two armed groups. We need to start the talks for the clarity and well-being of the Philippines,” Lao urged.]